TULSA, Oklahoma — Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters gathered in Tulsa Saturday evening for his first campaign rally in more than 100 days as he tries to reinvigorate his re-election bid in the midst of a pandemic, a recession and a national debate over racism.
The campaign suggested the rally would be the largest indoor gathering in the world during the pandemic. But the crowds were sparse in the arena, with many of the seats in the upper levels empty.
As of Saturday night, the U.S. has more than 2.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and over 114,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Several states, including Oklahoma, have seen a recent rise in cases as economies re-open.
Trump brought up the virus's origins in China, much to the amusement of the crowd: "Covid-19. That name gets further and further away from China as opposed to calling it the Chinese virus." He also referred to it as the "kung flu."
The rally took place after Trump’s campaign reported that six staff members who helped set up for the rally tested positive for coronavirus.
The campaign’s communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said in a statement that “quarantine procedures” were immediately initiated and no staff member who tested positive would attend the event. He said no one who had immediate contact with those staffers would attend, either.
Murtaugh said campaign staff members were tested for Covid-19 as part of the campaign’s safety protocols.
Campaign officials said everyone attending the rally was given temperature checks before they passed through security. They were also given masks to wear, if they want, and hand sanitizer at the 19,000-seat BOK Center.
Tulsa has seen cases of Covid-19 spike in the past week, and the local health department director asked that the rally be postponed. But Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said it would be safe. The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday denied a request that everyone attending the indoor rally be required to wear a mask, and few in the crowd Saturday evening were wearing them.